Jerry Cornfield reports on local Democrats vying for the post of Regional EPA Director. Notable names include Snohomish County Councilman Dave Somers, state Senator Phil Rockefeller, and Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg.
A couple observations from a former political appointee at the regional level:
1) The EPA post is one of the few local, federal political appointments, along the Health & Human Services, that have real, substantive administrative authority. It's a position that can have some real policy impact. In contrast, jobs at Labor and Education are much more communications and public affairs oriented. Those can be important too depending on where certain issues fall on a President's agenda, but they are different.
2) Don't be surprised if this post takes some time to fill. The Obama administration is famously struggling to fill most political jobs in the Executive Branch in DC. Needless to say, jobs out in the regional offices tend to get lower priority anyway, even before one considers there's hardly anyone in the right offices in the respective Departments to process such appointments anyway.
3) The approval process for these posts is multi-layered. You have to have approval from the leading Member of Congress sharing the President's party that is consulted for such positions. In this case it's Patty Murray, at the time I was hired by the Department of Education under Bush 43 it was Jennifer Dunn. Usually, the Department seeking to hire you usually has a say, though in the end they ultimately provide merely a strong recommendation. Why? It's the White House's call who ultimately receives political appointments.
When I was hired, I was recommended to the Department by a former colleague who himself served for a short while as a political appointee in DC. The Department interviewed me, including an interview with an Assistant Secretary, and recommended I be hired. At which point I had to be approved by the White House (who checked with Jennifer's Dunn's office as part of their own approval process).
In my case, I had worked with the Regional Political Affairs Director at the White House when he was Executive Director of Bush-Cheney 2000 in Washington state and I was working on Slade Gorton's campaign. Thus, I was able to move through that process very quickly and the Department received approval to hire me in comparatively prompt fashion (just a couple of weeks). That doesn't always happen though, and sometimes candidates put forward for appointment by a Department are rejected outright.
So, consider the potential roadblocks:
1) Not being able to get approval or top consideration from the relevant Member of Congress to which the White House is listening regarding the appointment in question.
2) Not being able to secure appropriate recommendations and/or interviews from within the Department within one seeks to serve. One does after all have to find a way to get on their radar screen in the first place.
3) Not being able to secure an ultimate stamp of approval from the White House. That varies by Administration, but it can be a real obstacle in some circumstances. Example: during Bush 43's first team, you weren't getting anything if you had "John McCain" on your resume. It just wasn't done.
Of course, even if you can manage all the above, it's very easy to see circumstances where one or more of those requirements takes some time to be accomplished. Example: the near complete vacancy of political appointments in DC means there are very few people capable of interviewing potential appointees...even if they had the time in their over-worked days to do so. Also, it's not like the White House has anything on its plate these days either.
All to say, the jockeying for the current EPA opening is interesting. But it could still easily be months before that post, and others like it, are actually filled.Posted by Eric Earling at March 01, 2009 08:41 PM | Email This